Day 27 of 27, four weeks ago today:
Of Napoleon and whippets.
The final full day starts out with a cross-country train (again) from Munich to Cologne where I’m meeting friends. Although I’ve been in Cologne many times, there’s still plenty to document.
In the early 19th-century, this part of the world along the Rhine river was taken over by Napoleon’s forces for strategic prominence. The French language (re)established itself, and although Napoleon’s ambitions were stopped and he was eventually turfed out, elements of the language remain. At the northeast corner of the armoury building which now houses the Kölnisches Stadtmuseum (City Museum) is a bilingual street sign “Rue de l’Arsenal | Zeughausgasse,” which translates to Armoury Lane.
Napoleon was here, but today you’re more likely to hear Mer stonn zo Dir, FC Kölle.
I make my way to my friends’ house where there’s meat on the grill, beer, and conversation. My friends run a martial arts school in the city and they have a couple of beautiful graceful whippets: Connor and Smilla. Look deep into their black pools for eyes, and wonder if you can refuse them anything.
I don’t get much sleep and by 6am, I’m packing and preparing to leave for Frankfurt Airport. I stare out the hotel window to a pre-dawn sky and why not, because that’ll be one of the final images over this stretch of 27 days.
Köln, 🇩🇪 - 3 June 2018 (HL/x70). #fujix70 #fujifilmx70 #fotoeins
Day 26 of 27, four weeks ago today:
In my hockey-mad nation of birth, September 1972 is defined by The Summit Series between Canada and the (former) Soviet Union. It’s the stuff of childhood legends. But high on my mind over the last 15 years has been about what happened that same month in Munich.
The 20th Summer Olympics were under way in Munich, Germany. “The Carefree Games” were the first summer games held in Germany since Berlin in 1936, and both Munich and Germany wanted to show a different peaceful and prosperous side to the world with the generation after World War 2. But the 1972 Games will also be remembered for and stained by the “Munich Massacre” on 5-6 September. By the end of the crisis, the 17 dead included eleven Israeli Olympic team members, one German police officer, and five Palestinian kidnappers. Questions still remain about pre-Game preparations and warnings about a possible attack, security measures, crisis management, and the failed liberation of the kidnapped victims.
The memorial “Erinnerungsort Olympia-Attentat München 1972” was inaugurated in 2017 in Olympiapark (Olympic Park). Panels provide short histories for each of the Israelis killed, and a video display with television footage of the time shows a timeline of events. North of the memorial are residential apartments and buildings in the former Olympic Village. Next to the building entrance at Connollystrasse 31 is a plaque in German and Hebrew commemorating the 11 Israelis killed: “For the 20th Olympic Summer Games, the Israel national team stayed here from 21 August to 5 September 1972. These people died violently on 5 September: David Berger, Seew Friedman, Josef Gutfreund, Elieser Halfin, Josef Romano, Amizur Shapira, Kehat Shorr, Mark Slavin, Andre Spitzer, Jaakow Springer, Mosche Weinberger. In honour of their memory.” Since 2001, the Olympic Village is listed as heritage Olympiapark ensemble, including the abandoned station München Olympiastadion which closed in 1988.
München, 🇩🇪 - 2 Jun 2018.
Day 25 of 27, four weeks ago today:
I’ve always thought I’m not emotionally prepared. But I can’t go further in my long-term study and examination of the nation’s history without visiting this location.
I’m on an S-Bahn train from Munich central station for a town to the northwest. From the town’s train station, I catch bus 726 for a short 7-minute ride, and I arrive in time for the venue to open for the day. This is the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site.
A dark heavy cloak descends the moment I step into the camp, and for the next few hours, I promise myself to be open as much as possible: to look, see, hear, and listen.
Systematic torture and unrestrained cruelty. Medical experiments on people. Arbitrary execution by hanging or gunfire. The destruction of human dignity. The annihilation of hope. This camp as “model” to broaden the scope and scale of industrial mass-murder.
The growing lump at the back of my throat feels like a massive rock, and I’m about to choke. By day’s end, I step into a small memorial room of the museum’s exhibition area. A thick hardcover book is open; the title is “Book of Remembrance for the Victims of Dachau Concentration Camp“. Inside these pages are 33205 names; the actual count is much higher with thousands whose names have not been identified.
I turn the book over towards the middle, and I read individual names: … Landsberger, Landshut, Landsmann, Landtmann, Landzettel, Lanemann, Lanfranco …
If I say them out loud, I want to believe that these human beings existed and lived and loved and breathed, that they’re recognized and they’ve come to life again, and that they will not be forgotten.
KZ-Dachau, 🇩🇪 - 1 June 2018. #neveragain #niewieder
Day 24 (of 27), four weeks ago today:
I’ve had a self-imposed demanding and punishing schedule over the last three weeks in the pursuit of something that was uniquely Austrian through music, painting, architecture, and physics. Over the final stretch, I’m slowing waaay down in seeking art, memories, and memorials.
Herakut is an artist duo whose street murals have appeared in Europe and around the world since 2004. Hera (Jasmin Siddiqui) and Akut (Falk Lehmann) use walls and big spaces for their big art with a signature look which includes expressive faces and big eyes, lots of photo-like details, and sharp typography. Their work explores issues such as physical and emotional isolation, gender and racial equality, and all the things we think and feel lurking inside. But I think their compositions also include long notes and pauses for vivid fantasy and playful whimsy.
At this point of the entire trip, I wanted to be in Munich to see Herakut’s latest work before the exhibition’s final day. Their exhibition “Wahn|Sinn” is a reinterpretation of Goethe’s tragic play “Faust.” I step into the hall through open doors, and the mind expands that analogy to account how I feel; it’s as if I’ve flung all my doors wide open. Their latest work takes up the entirety of the lower floor, while other related pieces are found on the upper floor. I realize I needed to “see” it when a roughly painted face appears in a mirror with the words “I’m okay.” Einfach Wahnsinn.
Verweile doch, Du bist so schön, so schön, so schön.
MUCA München, 🇩🇪 - 31 May 2018 (HL, x70 img tags 7082, 7079, 7101, 7117).
Day 23 of 27, four weeks ago today:
There’s a path along the ridge of the steep upper bowl called Passamani overlooking the mountain station for the Karwendel cable car. I skipped that path two winters ago, because I wasn’t properly equipped for the deep snow. Now that it’s late-spring, it’s a big reason why I decide to ascend Karwendel a second time in as many years. Another reason is the potential to acquire additional images for an ongoing photographic project.
The Karwendel cable car is the speedy way up the vertical wall of rock which overlooks the Bavarian town of Mittenwald in southern Germany. Within minutes, I’m whisked up to an altitude of 2244 metres (7362 feet) where I have a view of the Ammergau Alps, Zugspitze and the Wetterstein mountain range, and other peaks in the Karwendel mountain range on the Austrian side.
I’m huffing and puffing at the start. Yeah, I should be more fit, but at this elevation I’m breathing only about 75% of the atmosphere at sea-level. Within an hour, my lungs and muscles “remember” what it was like to work at similar altitudes in the Chilean Andes. I’ve always wondered about the breathing capacity of animals at this altitude; there are a few ambitious and hungry crows looking for easy scraps of food. In the distance, I detect movement at the corner of my eye. I switch to long-zoom glass, and I’ve in my sights a couple of goats in the valley below, although I can’t tell whether they’re ibex (Steinbock) or chamois (Gams). I admire them not only because they’re beautiful creatures moving quickly and gracefully over snow and scree, but because they thrive in the harsh and unforgiving environment.
Above Mittenwald, along the 🇩🇪-🇦🇹 frontier: 30 May 2018 (HL, x70 c6d imgs).
Day 22 of 27, four weeks ago today:
I step off the vehicle, and the red RVO bus chugs off into the distance. It’s my first time in town, and I don’t have a smart phone. But I’ve already committed into memory a map of key locations in Oberammergau, a town well-known for at least three things: the Passion Play, wood-carving tradition, and Lüftlmalerei or house murals.
Examples of house paintings in town include The Red Riding Rood House and the Hansel-and-Gretel House. Both houses are a part of the therapy- and learning-centre for children and youth and Marie-Mattfeld Hänsel and Gretlheim Foundation for the Bavarian state capital of Munich.
The tradition of wood carving has been tied with religious theatre in town and region for centuries. For example, a stationary form of religious theatre during Christmas season is the Nativity crib which began appearing in Bavarian churches, monasteries, and palaces in the 16th-century and into private homes by the 19th-century.
Performed for the first time in 1634, the town will stage its next decadal version of the Passion Play in 2020. I’m moved by how the play has gone beyond its oath and become much more than the story of Christ . The play is about the town’s people and the community developed over time by the massive scale and complex logistics of putting on a play which attracts in a single season over 500-thousand visitors into a town of 5-thousand. On display inside the Passion Theatre are costumes from the previous Passion Play in 2010: blue and white stripes for Annas (High Priest) at left-centre, red and orange for Gamaliel (High Priest) at right-centre. In the background are information panels about the history of the play and theatre.
To reach Oberammergau from Munich, it’s 100 minutes with regional trains and a switch in Murnau. From Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it’s 40-minutes with RVO bus 9606.
Oberammergau, 🇩🇪 - 29 May 2018 (HL, x70 img tags 6633, 6636, 6757, 6910).
Day 21 of 27, four weeks ago today:
The sharp shrill alarm is a jolt, springing me out of bed. I pad over to the window and pull the shades aside. Sky is bright, sky is clear, and the birds are chirping the same news. It’s 6am, and I’m chasing the 620am Eibsee bus from the train station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen for the short ride over to Obergrainau. I can tell late-May morning light will strike the Wetterstein mountains at the proper illumination angle. Below the vertical wall of ancient limestone, there are a couple of people about at 7am on their early stroll; the only other sounds are songbirds and cowbells. Time seems to stand still, wrapped in the hush of alpine charm.
In the afternoon, I’m going up top, which is a matter of selecting a suitable mountain. Many will fork over the cash to ride the cogwheel-railway and cable-car combination on the ascent to Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze. But the return price is 56 Euros (adult), and if that sounds too rich, Wank offers decent views for less than half the price at 21.50 Euros return. From the Wank summit at 1780 metres (5840 feet), I can see how popular this location is for a short excursion from town. I can also spot with the naked-eye three additional mountains which overlook the towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Mittenwald, and Innsbruck, respectively: Zugspitze, Westliche Karwendelspitze, and Hafelekar.
Sure, the sniggers come fast and furious, but the mountain name is related to the German verb “to totter or stagger”. But I’ve got a few more: “Anger” is a small meadow, “Wut” is fury, “fast” is to “almost” as “schnell” is to “quick”, “Hut” is a hat, and “hat” is the 3rd-person present-tense form of the verb “to have.” Because the English language is a hot mess, I like to pick on the pronunciations and etymologies for cough, dough, slough, *and* slough. All this, on a good visit to Wank.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 🇩🇪 - 28 May 2018 (HL, x70 img tags 6386, 6488, 6530).
Day 20, four weeks ago today:
It’s the final few hours in Salzburg, and with beautiful morning light, I head back into the Old Town and onto Getreidegasse at the building where Amadeus Mozart was born. The light and colours are pretty. Every 15 to 20 minutes, roaming groups of eight, ten, twelve or more arrive and disperse on the square in front of the building. There’s excited chatter, the thrill of a find, something they’ll never see or have back home, and of course, the selfie sticks come out. The sticks aren’t exactly my favourite thing in the world, but I’m going to make visual “lemonade” by taking pictures of people taking self-portrait pictures. Because I like my meta-lemonade cold.
Finally, what happened to my informal poll where I asked people if they had ever seen the film “The Sound of Music”? Keeping in mind low-number statistics and the informality of my poll, the answer is an overwhelming “no”; more than 80% have never seen the movie, another 20% saw the movie the first time in their 20s or 30s. There’s little reason why the film should be aired in Austria, Germany, or Switzerland, unless it’s about cultural evangelism. After all, they have their own Christmas traditions, in the streets, at home, and on television screens.
I leave Salzburg and Austria knowing I’ll miss them both. It’s Germany (mostly) the rest of the way.
Salzburg, 🇦🇹 - 27 May 2018 (HL, x70 imgs 6307, 6298). #fujix70 #fujifilmx70 #fotoeins
Day 19, four weeks ago today:
In the southeast corner of Germany, the views from the Eagle’s Nest at an elevation of 1834 metres (6017 feet) are breathtaking with the Alps on one side and Salzburg on the other. The lodge at the top of Kehlstein mountain was once a place for the Nazi elite to “get away from it all;” that is, to get away temporarily from making savage psychopathic plans for mass murder.
Thousands worked on the challenging steep Eagle’s Nest project; took less than two years with completion in 1938; and cost 30 million Reichsmarks, which is a staggering $1+ billion US (2017 CPI). No expense was too much to build the Kehlsteinhaus; like other similar projects of the time, the grand sight to a visitor was supposed to shock and awe, impress and intimidate. Today, the building is leased to the private operation of a busy café and restaurant for the visitors who come up to Kehlstein. Normally, I’m always hungry, especially at altitude, but today all hunger has gone. It’s beautiful up here in the sun, but I wonder how many in the crowds have paid any attention to the reasons why the building exists in the first place.
The demanding technical construction project on Kehlstein mountain was only one part of the overall Obersalzberg complex which became 2nd to Berlin as an unofficial working capital of the Nazi regime. That meant decisions about political strategy, battle tactics, and extermination measures were also made at Obersalzberg. At the former Hoher Göll Guest House, the Dokumentation Obersalzberg centre houses a permanent exhibition about the history of the area; about the seizure of power, nation, and people by the National Socalists; and the takeover of the idyllic landscape by the Nazis for the purposes of seclusion, propaganda, and strategy.
Berchtesgaden, 🇩🇪 - 26 May 2018 (HL, x70).